Hurricane Katrina

Storm survivors: Looking through the stained glass at Hurricane Katrina

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD
The stained glass of Jesus at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer survived Hurricane Katrina. The glass in now in the new church on Popps Ferry Road in Biloxi.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD The stained glass of Jesus at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer survived Hurricane Katrina. The glass in now in the new church on Popps Ferry Road in Biloxi. SUN HERALD

People who hunkered down to weather Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, may have emerged to find mud and devastation, but their assessments would soon find at least one colorful reminder of light and hope in a time of darkness.

The churches along Beach Boulevard from Pascagoula to Pearlington were heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Some were destroyed. But just as survivors found mementos in the rubble, so, too, did people find remnants of what had been their spiritual life in the stained glass that survived Katrina's winds and water.

A stained-glass panel depicting the face and hands of Christ -- salvaged after 1969's Hurricane Camille destroyed Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi -- again survived. It now has a home in the rebuilt church on Popp's Ferry Road, well north of the beach, as do the old church's bells.

"Special pieces of the church's history have been carefully placed in the new sanctuary to ensure that the history and struggles of the church are not forgotten," said Harold Roberts, then pastor at the church. "It is so very comforting for people to have these memories here in God's house.

"The stained glass, the bells, the Jefferson Davis family pew and other mementos that have survived catastrophe are all part of what makes this church not only a beautiful place to attend services but a place where locals and tourists can find meaningful links to the Coast's past."

Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's interior features stained-glass windows that outlasted Katrina and still cast a glow over the pews.

Katrina destroyed 22 of St. Michael Catholic Church's lower panels, along with the plate-glass coverings and some of the limestone around the windows' edges.

Church officials and the window maker David Frei, vice president of the Emil Frei Stained Glass Co. of St. Louis, Mo., contacted each other. Frei came down to the to oversee the installation of new glass panels in the iconic Point Cadet church.

The Freis devised a pulley-and-track system for each window that allows the bottom panels to be hoisted up to the top panels, which may save them from future hurricanes.

Moore Community House, a mission of the United Methodist Church that has been helping Biloxi families since 1924, will rebuild its child-care center near Back Bay. The only one of its eight buildings left after Katrina, an old church with its stained-glass windows intact, was converted into a child-care center. The refurbished church can accommodate 60 to 70 children.

The Church of the Vietnamese Martyrs was able to its salvage stained-glass windows, though the water line was about 10 feet through much of the church, and 7 feet at the altar.

A round stained-glass window at St. Peters by-the-Sea Episcopal Church that symbolizes St. Peter defied twisted-metal wall supports and survived the onslaught of wind and water. It was installed in the renovated church.

A dome that graces the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church of Gulfport made it through Katrina. Debris, other buildings and trees struck the brick building that holds the dome with great force, but it held on. The sanctuary walls are some three or four bricks thick, and they held firm. The stained-glass windows, even on the south walls, also were intact.

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church had the lower portions of its buildings blown out. But parishioners rescued four circular stained-glass windows and they were installed in the newly designed church that was built on the footprint of the old church.

A salvaged cross and spire from First Baptist Church of Long Beach were placed in front of the entrance of the new church campus. Members decided to make the cross an architectural theme throughout the church to be included in the windows.

St. Paul Catholic Church in Pass Christian was almost completely destroyed, but some windows and the altar were salvaged and used in the St. Paul Chapel built on the site of the church. One of the stained-glass windows from the original St. Paul -- which was destroyed by Camille -- was installed in the chapel's steeple.

Pieces of Main Street United Methodist Church's old wooden steeple were used to make crosses and frame prints of the church as gifts for church members who helped after Katrina devastated the city. Although the steeple was blown down, the stained glass survived with only small damage.

Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church was reduced to a shell, but most of the beautiful stained-glass windows were unharmed. The church, built in 1908, held Easter services just eight months after Katrina, despite ongoing renovations.

Work on the church after Katrina included a new pine floor --- actually an old one recovered from a Chicago school --- and installation of pews donated by an Orlando, Fla., church.

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